Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Commentary: Balboa Mesa is Right for Clairemont

Commentary by Julee Jenkins, Clairemont Community Schools

The Revitalization of Balboa Mesa Shopping Center is Right for the Clairemont Community

The Balboa Mesa Shopping Center renovation proposed by Regency Centers will invest $10 million, bringing new life to the shopping center and to our community with new shops and restaurants, including a drive-thru In-N-Out Burger. The renovation is LEED® certified and includes an updated parking lot design which will improve traffic movement within the center. Other elements of the proposed revitalization are outdoor seating areas, pedestrian pathways, new exterior signage and stone accents, and new shopping center lighting and landscaping.

Some community members have raised questions about the potential traffic related to the project. The good news is the plans call for a total overhaul of the parking lot at the center to enhance circulation. In addition, Regency has worked closely with the City to minimize impacts and ensure better access to and from Balboa Avenue.

The City originally approved the redevelopment of this shopping center in 2007. Since then, Regency Centers purchased the site and made a number of improvements to the already approved renovation plan, without changing the traffic analysis for the original site plan from 2007. The currently proposed site plan offers several elements that keep traffic impacts to the center, and to the surrounding area, at a minimum. First, the In-N-Out Burger is located away from the busy Genesee Avenue and Balboa Avenue intersection. Secondly, there are multiple driveways offering access to the shopping center, including multiple Genesee Avenue entrances in addition to the main shopping center entrance on Balboa Avenue. Third, Regency Centers has planned for 12 car stacking capacity in the In-N-Out drive-thru line; the City only requires that five car stacking is available. And finally, there will be no significant impacts on surrounding roadways even due to operations after midnight, as it is non-peak hour traffic volume.

Based on the analysis, which proves that traffic impacts have been addressed, Regency Centers has moved forward with a location for the drive-thru that minimizes impacts to the shopping center and the Clairemont Mesa community. Regency Centers has also planned for ample parking for In-N-Out customers. While several In-N-Out Burgers in San Diego are stand-alone facilities, the Balboa Mesa location will ensure that, even when the drive-thru is busy, customers will be able to park and walk into the restaurant. I commend Regency Centers for proactively working with the community to provide information and answer questions about the project, and for working to mitigate any traffic impacts to the local community.

On February 19, the Clairemont Community Planning Group voted 9 to 2 to recommend approval of the renovation to the San Diego Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is expected to review the project in late March or early April and the San Diego City Council is scheduled to make a final decision in May. I believe this renovation is right for our community, and I urge you to join me in support. To learn more about the benefits to our community or voice your support, visit www.supportbalboamesa.com

Julee Jenkins
Clairemont Community Schools

The previous commentary may not reflect the overall feelings of the entire Clairemont Town Council. However, we support everyone's opportunity to have their voice be heard on any issue or topic as it pertains to the well-being of our Clairemont community.


  1. Julie,
    I respectfully disagree. I DO support redevelopment at the shopping center but I DO NOT support rezoning it. This is a highly residential area of Clairemont as well as commercial. The current zoning of the shopping center ALREADY allows thousands of businesses in the spot that the developers want to put a drive-thru. If they are successful at removing the current protective zoning, drive-thrus, bars, live entertainment, and 24-hour stores will be allowed across from homeowners. Developers are seeking to maximize their profits by getting rid of zoning restrictions. They will develop the center regardless, but they will only develop it responsibly if we keep our zoning in place. YES to REDEVELOPMENT, NO to REZONING.

  2. As a resident who lives within walking distant to the proposed area to be rezoned, I welcome that there will be changes to the Balboa Mesa Shopping Center. We are excited for new businesses for our community. We DO NOT wish to see the area rezoned as would be needed for the In n Out Burger to be in the shopping center. With the rezoning that allows the burger place, it also allows for bars, live entertainment, and 24 hour stores to be in the area that faces the homes of many of our residents across the street. The area will be developed even if the rezoning plan does not go through, so we will enjoy the improved center and definitely say NO to rezoning! Sorry In N Out, there are plenty of other corners for you to be on!

  3. Yes the renovation of Balboa Shopping Center is much anticipated and will bring new life to this center and the area. And yes it will make use of many current ‘green” technologies now used in the building industry, give the existing buildings a face lift and finally correct the 2009 parking lot debacle. But all of this can happen without any need for the rezoning that the owners, Regency Centers, are attempting to push through and that many Clairemont residents are against.

    And why is a rezoning necessary when this project received its initial approval back in 2007? Because Regency Centers wants to add a drive-thru restaurant in the one small area of the property that does not allow this type of business, the Genesee Ave strip. Why is this zoned differently? Because when the center was zoned back in the late 60s the neighborhood homes were already in place and the zoning created a “buffer” between the existing homes and commercial business. This different zoning only restricts a few types of business such as drive thru restaurants, liquor sales and live music. There are thousands of businesses that can be opened there without any need for rezoning. They could open an Olive Garden or Mimi’s restaurant, wouldn’t that be great? These are businesses that attract shoppers who will be staying in the area to shop as well as dine!! Very important!

    You have written extensively regarding the traffic impact, or as you insistent the non-existent or mitigated traffic impact. Please be assured that if you add a drive thru restaurant in this center that there will be a major impact on the traffic in the area. The reconfiguration of the parking lot shown in the plans will not change this fact and placing the drive thru on Genesee Ave will only force the 200-300 plus cars a day onto a short street that wasn’t meant to handle it. One thing that will be immediate is the number of cars traveling south who will be performing u-turns at the Mt. Alifan signal to pull into the center. There is a bus stop right there next to El Portal so cars that back up at these drive ways will impede the buses as well as anyone heading north on Genesee Ave. It will also mean more traffic on Mt. Alifan entering the center the back way in an attempt to dodge the traffic jam on Genesee. If the drive thru were to be located where the Baskin Robbins is being removed then the traffic would have a designated signal with turn lanes to enter the center, as well as all the other driveways. This is truly the way to handle all those cars. It is all about the location of the drive-thru, it needs to be moved off of Genesee Ave to where a rezoning isn’t necessary.
    Oh, and a rezoning allows these businesses to be open 24/7. Wow, won’t that be nice for the homes in the area, listening to increased traffic at 2 in the morning. Not only will there be a significant impact in traffic but I am pretty sure that the humans living in the area will suffer an impact too!!

    Think of it this way. Imagine if someone were to buy the two single family homes across the street from you and said, “I'm going to tear down these houses and build high density studio apartments.” Your responses should be, “This land is not zoned for it.” Their response might be, “I'll have the city change the zoning.” Everyone, and I mean everyone, in this city enjoys zoning protections. And that is what we are asking for.

    Renovation of the Center- YES, rezoning- NO.
    Thank you for taking the time to consider my points.

  4. We, at the Pacific Bluffs directly across the street from the proposed In-and-Out, beg to differ.

    Firstly, Pacific Bluffs, built in 1965 pre-dates the Balboa Mesa shopping center. When the shopping center was originally proposed, city planners rightly implemented a very small buffer zone to protect adjacent residents from a few, very specific, disruptive businesses classes. Yes, the neighborhood has changed since 1965, be we (Pacific Bluffs) are still here and proudly anchoring the community core.

    Secondly, re-vitalization at Balboa Mesa was approved by the city in 2007. Why haven't they moved forward? Neither the previous owner nor the current owner needs anyone's permission to move forward and complete the project as approved in 2007. The only change to the already approved 2007 plan is the addition of a fast food drive through in the small sliver of land where it is disallowed by zoning. Put it elsewhere in the center and we have no objection.

    Thirdly, at the November 2012 Clairemont Community Planning Group (CCPG) meeting, the developer presented a request for a deviation, or exception to the zoning restrictions. They petitioned to add fast food drive through in the small portion of the property where it is not allowed. At that meeting, the CCPG voted unanimously (13-0) to reject the developer's deviation request.

    Fourthly, we at the Pacific Bluffs did not receive notice of the February 2013 CCPG meeting until a week after the meeting had already occurred. We learned the developer would re-present to the CCPG at the February meeting only after we contacted the CCPG and asked to be put on the agenda. Our request was rejected because the developer was already on the agenda. Imagine our surprise when our notice of the CCPG February meeting arrived in our mail boxes a week after the meeting.

    Fifthly, with less than a week to prepare, we attended the February 2013 CCPG meeting. We listened patiently to the developer's presentation. Before we had a chance to present our rebuttal, some CCPG members were voicing support and referring to meetings with the developer, from which, Pacific Bluffs were excluded. Some say this may have violated Brown Act protections. It was this, February 2013 meeting where the CCPG voted 9 -2 in favor of recommending approval of a zoning change, not renovation. Remember, renovation was already approved in 2007.

    Lastly, this situation begs the question: Does the neighborhood exist in service of the business, or do the businesses exist in service of the neighborhood?

    We respectfully ask for your support. Does Clairemont really need one more drive through fast food joint? How about a Trader Joe's, or Chilli's or Stone Brewery restaurant? Please see our online video and get the facts. Www.CareAboutClairemont.com